Thursday, August 07, 2014

New Right Meets New Left

I have written a number of things on the convergence between the Far Left and Right over the years, and became increasingly interested in the topic upon entering UC Davis as a graduate student. I spent my formative, youthful years on the Far Left, but found myself disillusioned with many of its core beliefs and organizations towards the end of my undergraduate life. After leaving school, I began to read many works in “the opposition,” and found that I had a very shallow understanding of the alternative ideological precepts active in the political realm. By the time I entered graduate life, I was familiar enough with Right-wing thought to see the similarities between it and my Left-wing counterparts at Davis. I won’t rehash my previous arguments on this subject, but you can find some of them here.

Counter-Currents and Radix Journal are two of the leading “traditionalist” or neo-fascist publishing houses/blogs on the net, and reading their work the last few months has been intriguing on a few levels. For one, it is clear that both sites recognize that the Right has an image problem. If you drop in to sites like StormFront, or attend a white-power hardcore show, you will likely be exposed to a crass portion of the political community. Men with little education and intelligence, celebrating Adolph Hitler, and engaging in tactless violence over political engagement make up a majority of participants. It is easy to paint the Far Right as nothing more than a handful of brutish thugs when exposed exclusively to this crowd. Counter-Currents and Radix definitely (and defiantly) bring an academic focus and facade to their side of the debate, one that is required if the Far-right is to extend its reach beyond a few ruffians.  

While I have no way of knowing just how extensive this outreach has extended into radical communities, from my experiences, it appears that the philosophical underpinnings of their arguments have found allies well beyond a skinhead mosh-pit. A recent piece published at Counter-Currents by Eugène Montsalvat titled “Turn Left, New Right!” demonstrates how the Right has embraced many of the Left’s main tropes, and provides a place for significant crossover between communities.

I will start with some praise for Montsalvat’s piece, and a recognition that the existing Left/Right divide has always been more complicated than it is made out to be at universities and in the media. Many of the traditional conservative arguments (both in Europe and America) for keeping stable, vibrant communities afloat, and the nefarious role finance plays in breaking said community’s bonds, mirrors arguments made by leftists intent on preserving “indigenous, ethnic communities.” Additionally, fascist and totalitarian movements of last century almost always contained working –class and socialist roots. With large portions of the working class embracing fascism prior to the war, and their unwillingness to work towards the New Left’s stated aims in the 60s and 70s, continues to produce animosity and conflict between activists and workers.
With just a few alterations, this statement from Montsalvat could easily be found in a slew of Left-wing publications (and one I found myself finding shreds of truth within):
“First, we must recognize the real enemy. The enemy is liberalism, which is the global imperial agenda foisted upon the world by the United States and its allies. Their goal is the creation of an atomized, global consumer society, a pleasure dome police state. Our enemy is the totality of the system, the empire, consisting of those who control the government, corporate, media, and academic institutions globally.”
As Montsalvat uses liberalism to describe the American political and economic system, one can simply change the world to “capitalism” to better meet the tastes of his leftist brethren. Eugene makes the following point about culture and identity that may also ring true to many post-modernists on the Left.

“Colonialism can also take upon a cultural form, the advocacy of Western standards, or lack of thereof, to people who have yet to reach our stage of enlightened progress. Western capitalism exports cultural norms of the west through media and entertainment, the McDonaldization of the globe. In addition to market mechanisms, cultures are often subverted by the governmental sponsorship of anti-traditional movements, such as the CIA funding of abstract expressionist art, or the National Endowment for Democracy’s connections with the feminist, anti-Orthodox, punk collective Pussy Riot. Whether it uses the avant-garde or pop schlock, the ultimate goal is the dissolution of a nation’s unique cultural identity into the wider trends set in Hollywood.”

While he won’t win scores of friends on the Left with his support for Orthodox Christianity and his disdain for Pussy Riot, the heart of his argument is that a community should not be forced to conform to American liberal, capitalist norms and practices. Diversity of political practices and norms is a hallmark of the New Left, as it looks to defend nations and states that do not conform to the predominant American practices.
It is Montsalvat’s attack of Capitalism that may surprise those on the left unaccustomed to the diversity of opinion coming out of the Right. He writes:

“Capitalism knows no country, no faith, no ideology other than the pursuit of money. The capitalist will gladly abandon whatever roots his corporation has to gain a competitive advantage. Moreover, capitalism will fight any ideology that seeks to impose a limit on the quest for profit, its goal is a world where anything is possible, so long as it gets paid for. The traditions, identity, or beliefs of a society that get in the way of business must be discarded. Thus capitalism calls for open borders, fluid identities, and social liberalism.”

This may come across as blasphemy by Republicans and American conservatives, but it would likely find support with many who consider themselves dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. The complete embrace of free market ideals and assumptions by American conservatives has always struck me as odd and disingenuous. There is a cultish adherence to markets, as if all problems in the world can be solved simply by complete economic freedom. Yet, the community, norms and values adhered to by said conservatives are continually dismantled and undermined by the free-market. I have found Rick Santorum to be an interesting case in this regard. He champions the working class and traditional families in stump speeches, but fully embraces the myth that free, unregulated markets will preserve the values he claims to defend.

Simply because something is profitable or popular does not mean it has value and worthy of celebration. One has to look no further than the knee-jerk merriment by the Republicans in response to welfare state attempts to limit consumption of harmful products. Since many people enjoy drinking soda and buying cheap goods from China that remove jobs from the U.S., it must be good right? The Market has spoken!

While I am omitting Montsalvat’s frequent references to Jews and “Zionists” (exposing just how backwards thinking his “New Right” is), this final point is one that requires serious consideration, as it provides a counter to many voices on the Right in regards to immigration. He writes:

“Second, we must distinguish between the agents of the system, and the victims of the system. It is fruitless to criticize immigrants, who have no power, and let the corporations and businessmen who clamor for more cheap labor, and politicians who maintain power from their votes, escape guilt, which is wholly theirs. The Mayan farmer in Chiapas is as much a victim of the system as the unemployed white coal miner in Kentucky.”

One needs look no further than the current refugee crisis on the U.S. boarder to see how this plays out. The working man and woman is often the first to feel the heat for conditions they had little to do with. Workers are uprooted from their communities and the bonds of kinship by an international capitalist system that produces and desires a transient workforce at every turn. For Republicans to relish in punishing poor workers escaping environments directly related to the economic and political decisions made by the U.S. government, while saying not a word about the corporate desire for cheap labor, is treacherous and erratic. I don’t know if this means a sea-change on the Right that may spill over into mainstream conservative circles (rank Jew hatred surely won’t get them very far), but the boundaries between the Far-Left and Right seem to be getting smaller by the day. 


Gnarlodious said...

Good point, I see it happening every day. I think the far right is scoping out new turf as they become increasing ludicrous, and some of that turf blongs to liberals. A perfect example is an ad I have been hearing on the Savage show for a book written by a Wayne Root, an extreme gun advocate, called “Death of the Middle Class”. Strangely though, liberals have been warning about the death of the middle class at least since the beginning of the Bush era, so what gives? Notice how the gun advocates have pretty much shut up recently, leaving them time to ponder their public support. It is then that they are exposd as publicity hunters just loking for a platform. they really don’t have any integrated ideologies. They are just a loosely associated group of anarchists desperate for attention.

bob said...

This is really interesting Roland. Great stuff.

The thrust of your analysis here is that there is a lot the New Right says which would be familiar to those on the left. Perhaps it's worth adding the other side of the convergence: that too much of what has become mainstream on the hard left now resembles the far right.

Here's two examples. First, you say "he won’t win scores of friends on the Left with his support for Orthodox Christianity and his disdain for Pussy Riot". However, I've noticed a lot of leftists embracing that kind of position. For example, the Morning Star in the UK (edited by old-style Communists, but widely read in the labour movement) has published some vicious attacks on Pussy Riot, including one quite homophobic one by Assange's buddy Israel Shamir, who regularly endorses Orthodox Christianity. That kind of stuff is also regularly published in Counterpunch, where Alexander Cockburn has long spewed homophobic comments too. Neil Clarke, who constantly endorses the Russian Orthodox Church, has many followers on the British left. And the pro-Assadist positions on the Syrian conflict have been circulated on the left from Orthodox Christian sources as well as Russia Today.

A second, more obvious example is Zionism. You note "Montsalvat’s frequent references to Jews and “Zionists” (exposing just how backwards thinking his “New Right” is)". But of course we hear a lot of shit about Jews and Zionists (the Jewish Lobby etc) from the anti-Israel left, as well as antisemitic conspiracy theories in the Occupy movement.

(These points are not criticisms of your post, of course, but addenda.)